Cancer prognosis

You may hear the word 'prognosis' used in appointments, see it written in letters from your doctor or when reading information about cancer yourself.

This page explains what prognosis is, when you might hear it and how Maggie's can help you with any questions you may have.

What does prognosis mean?

Prognosis is the word used for a medical opinion about how your cancer may behave and its potential outcomes. 

It may refer to whether your cancer is likely to improve, stabilise, get worse or to decide which treatment to offer.

The term prognosis is also commonly used when estimating how long you might be expected to live with cancer.

How is a cancer prognosis decided?

A prognosis is carefully thought about by your healthcare team and may be based on a number of factors including:

  • Medical expertise and experience on treating a particular cancer type
  • Research into your cancer type
  • How other people with similar symptoms have responded to treatment
  • Your individual situation

A prognosis can be helpful

Talking about how your cancer may behave in the future may be very difficult and sometimes your healthcare team may wait for you to ask when you're ready.

However, knowing your prognosis may help you to:  

  • Decide whether to have a treatment or not
  • Choose between different treatments
  • Plan ahead for you and your family

Managing emotions

How you feel about knowing your prognosis is individual to you and may be different to how your family feels.

Talking about your cancer with others can be a helpful exercise and bring you closer to the people you love.

However, it can also raise many different emotions at different times and not everyone is ready to have difficult conversations at the same time.

We can help you with managing your own emotions and help you to start conversations with people close to you.

We're also here for your family and friends.

Maggie's is here with you

We're here in our centres, on the phone and email to help you to with the challenges knowing a prognosis can bring.

There may also be practical issues, about managing financially, and how treatment may affect you and those close to you.

Our Cancer Support Specialists, Benefits Advisors and Psychologists are here to listen to your concerns and find the help you need.

51ɫAPP your nearest Maggie's centre for details of how to get in touch.

Last review: Oct 2021 | Next review: Oct 2022

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